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Blanke v. Blanke

May 29, 2008

ERIKA L. BLANKE, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
DANIEL L. BLANKE, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Hunterdon County, Docket No. FM-10-27-06.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted November 26, 2007

Before Judges A. A. Rodríguez and Collester.

Erika L. Blanke appeals from the March 30, 2007 post-divorce judgment order that modified the parenting-time agreement between her and Daniel L. Blanke. The most substantial modification concerned an additional, significant restriction on unsupervised time with the parties' daughter and Linda Schaefer, her maternal grandmother. We reverse and remand to the Family Part.

The parties were married on October 10, 1998. One daughter was born of the marriage, now age eight. In 2001, the couple separated. At the time, the mother had custody of the daughter. Ericka lived with her daughter and her mother. In April 2004, Erika asked Daniel to take custody of the daughter because she was concerned about Schaefer's drinking problem. Just before this occurred, Daniel had filed for divorce.

Daniel filed an order to show cause seeking temporary custody. The judge granted Daniel temporary custody pending a hearing. The couple was able to resolve this issue by way of a consent order entered on February 25, 2005. In that order, it was agreed that the parties were to have joint legal custody with Daniel retaining residential custody. A visitation schedule was established between the parties.

Daniel's complaint for divorce was dismissed for lack of prosecution. Thereafter, Erika filed the present action for divorce in Hunterdon County. Daniel did not contest the divorce.

Erika moved to change or alter custody. Judge Stephen Rubin ordered Daniel to authorize Erika to receive any information from school and to be added to the authorized list for school pick-up. Judge Rubin also ordered a full custody evaluation by an agreed upon mental health professional. The parties agreed to retain Elane Lee-Isa, MS, ACSW, LCSW of Alpha Family Practice, as the professional to conduct the custody evaluation. She interviewed the parties, as well as their daughter, Schaefer, Erika's therapist, and Daniel's parents. Lee-Isa made the following recommendation regarding Schaefer:

Linda Schaefer seems to be a very caring and capable individual who has allowed alcohol to dominate her life and place herself and others at risk, especially [the granddaughter]. If she is to continue to be an alternative caregiver for [the granddaughter], she must be required to take an immediate urine drug screen and random drug screenings indefinitely to ensure her abstinence. One year of sobriety does not constitute a cure. Linda Schaefer is at risk of relapse due to her prolonged abuse of alcohol. She must be required to attend regular AA meetings as well. There must be a means to substantiate her attendance.

The parties eventually reached an agreement that was placed on the record. Judge Rubin entered an amended judgment of divorce, incorporating this agreement. The agreement addresses the issue of Schaefer's contact with the granddaughter. Paragraph 11 of the Agreement states:

Pursuant to the specific recommendations of the court appointed expert the maternal grandmother shall comply with provisions of her report regarding monitoring of [the] sobriety issue.

Compliance shall be completed by way of reports, attendance records, screening, etc. being given to Court appointed expert to determine when child care by maternal grandmother is authorized. ...


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